The Indonesian government is demanding answers from Taiwan after several Indonesian students were allegedly subjected to forced labor in Taiwanese factories.
The students were enrolled in the New Southbound Policy (NSP) scholarship program, an initiative from Taiwan to promote exchange with 18 countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Australasia.
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Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, the Foreign Ministry’s director for the protection of Indonesian citizens and legal entities abroad, said he asked the Indonesian Economic and Trade Office (IETO) in Taiwan to investigate the students’ claims that they were put into forced labor schemes under the guise of college internships.
The Jakarta Post reports:
Last week, Taiwanese media reported lawmaker Ko Chih-en from the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) as saying that at least six universities were found to have assigned students under the NSP program to manual labor positions in Taiwanese factories.
In one case, 300 students under the age of 20 who were enrolled at Hsing Wu Technology University in New Taipei City’s Linkou district were only allowed to go to class two days a week and have one day of rest, while working the remaining four days at a factory, where they packaged 30,000 contact lenses for 10 hours per shift, Ko was quoted as saying.
Iqbal said the Foreign Ministry had asked the IETO to coordinate with local authorities to temporarily halt the recruitment and sending of students under the scheme until they are guaranteed better conditions.
The Ministry of Education prohibits internships for first-year college students, but universities reportedly arranged for the Indonesian students to work despite the ban.
Hsing Wu University issued a press release denying all charges of forced labor, saying that its program had been reviewed by both its partner school in Indonesia, as well as the Bangka administration from which the students originated in Indonesia.
“The students have never been exploited, and it does not make sense for them to put out 30 thousand labels 10 hours per day,” said the university.
“All [work] is recorded in an attendance report and backed by salary slips received during work.”
Taiwanese government officials have yet to comment on the case.
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